The final signal for going into labor comes from your baby, but there are numerous ways a mother’s body can hinder or inhibit that process and therefore prolong when labor begins. Tools like acupuncture are very successful at keeping a mother’s body open and strong so that when the baby is ready, it is easy to get labor going naturally and progress smoothly. -Melani Bolyai, L.Ac.
Acupuncture can be of benefit for Labor Preparation as well as a natural Labor Induction method if necessary, although with labor preparation treatments, the likelihood of needing induction treatments goes down dramatically. Labor preparation treatments start at 36 weeks and are once a week. If a mother approaches 40 weeks and her healthcare team isn’t seeing enough movement towards labor, then switching over to induction treatments would likely be recommended.
Labor induction is an attempt by a medical team to trigger a woman’s body into going into labor with the goal of a vaginal birth. Methods to medically induce labor include manual “breaking of the water,” manual “sweeping” of the membranes around the cervix, and, most commonly, the administration of drugs.
Medical induction is most often employed because a baby is considered overdue, although there are other medical issues that arise that make induction recommended. Babies are considered overdue if they don’t arrive before the date determined by their doctor, which can cause added stress for a mother to go into labor ‘on time’. It is important to note, however, that due dates are approximations. Normal fetal gestation can take anywhere between 38 and 42 weeks. It is normal and healthy for some babies to need a longer time in utero.
Western medical practitioners use drugs like oxytocin (Pitocin), or hormones like prostaglandins or relaxin with the goal of inducing labor, however, they are not always successful. Unfortunately, these drugs can be very strong and use of them often leads to additional interventions such as epidurals, and in some cases can lead to episiotomy, vacuum delivery, or C-section.
Acupuncture is a natural, gentle way to encourage the onset of labor. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses acupuncture needling to prepare and encourage a mother’s body towards a natural labor. While it is ideal for a mother to have received acupuncture treatment throughout her pregnancy, a pregnant woman can benefit from labor preparation acupuncture with no prior treatment history.
How Acupuncture works to induce labor
Acupuncture works by stimulating the mother’s body to ready itself for labor. Needling will encourage the body to naturally release prostaglandins to soften and ripen the cervix for labor, and oxytocin to trigger contractions. Because the body produces its own hormones, and the process in natural, the mother and child will experience a gradual, less-traumatic onset of labor.
Most women who have reached full gestation will need only one to three treatments before labor occurs. According to an Australian study, induction acupuncture is over 88% effective (read the article and see the research). Labor typically begins between six and forty-eight hours after a treatment. A mother who is post-date should typically receive treatments every other day until labor begins. Of course, it is always encouraged to consult with a doctor or midwife before seeking induction assistance.
Though acupuncture is a natural way to encourage labor, acupuncture needling will not cause labor before the baby is ready to be delivered. The process of natural labor is actually triggered by signals from the baby’s body. Acupuncture needling works on the mother’s body, not the fetus; so acupuncture merely prepares the mother’s body to be as ready and supported as possible for when the baby is ready to trigger the labor process. Labor will not occur if the mother or child’s body is not prepared.
The Stress of An Overdue Pregnancy
Another advantage to induction with acupuncture is that it decreases a mother’s stress. A mother’s body rarely goes into labor when she is feeling extreme fear or anxiety. This is a biological survival mechanism; a woman’s body waits to go into labor until she has found safety from any imminent threats. Labor may appear to be delayed or a baby considered to be overdue if a mother is stressed; a high level of anxiety can therefore trigger a woman’s body to delay labor. If labor is delayed by anxiety, acupuncture can help a woman’s body de-stress, so a normal delivery process can begin. Acupuncture needling has also been shown to help a mother manage the stress and pain of labor.
No mother should feel pressured to opt for unnecessary induction. While there can be valid medical reasons for induction, women are encouraged to discuss their options with their doctor, midwife and/or doula if the possibility arises. In addition to acupuncture, there are other natural home remedies that can help encourage the labor process, and Melani is always available to discuss possibilities over the phone. Acupuncture can offer a safe, effective and natural solution to help the process of you and your baby getting to meet each other for the first time!